All of the Things I Never Did

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My grandfather offered me a wooden toy he made with his own hands I shook my head no because it looked fragile and I didn’t want to break it and dishonor him but then never have I seen someone so sad when he put it back on the top shelf of his workshop a few years later he died and I never did see that toy again.


My close friend had taken too many drugs and was having a bad trip that halloween and I needed a break from babysitting so I went to the gas station to get a vitamin water and protein bar and when I got back everyone else decided to call an ambulance and I was angry because we just had to ride the acid out a few more hours but instead we got The System involved and he came down alone securely strapped in hospital bed somewhere but I wasn’t there and our friendship never recovered after that.


It was my last semester at Columbia and I had been commuting the whole time so I always missed parties and all my classmates invited me out to celebrate graduating so I went and we had a grand old time but then I woke up hungover at my friend’s house with dozens of calls and texts from my mom who had called the police and authorized them to try to track my phone and it was winter and she was worried about me and thought I had maybe killed myself or jumped in the river or something and I just wanted to have fun with my friends so I have a lot of complicated feelings and guilt about that one.


Our drummer wasn’t working out so instead of talking about it like adults which as high schoolers we were not we just took all our gear out of his garage and he showed up for practice to a lonely drumset and no friends and that was pretty shitty of us.


He asked me if I ever killed a man and I thought he was joking but then he took a drag squinting through the smoke and it was the squint of truth so I said no but then wondered about how many degrees of separation blood can count.


My close friend got in a car accident and I later realized the helicopter I heard that day at work was his and he was in a coma for weeks or maybe months and I remember him hooked up to all the machines and a catheter and not having full motor control of his body and afterwards his personality and interests totally changed and I tried hanging out with him many times over many years but it was too painful for me and then him and my ex-girlfriend were dating and that was confusing and then our friendship just totally faded to black and I still feel like I let him down somehow.


I’ve always loved writing and music and painting and making things but I never tried to go career and there’s this awful thing most of us artists do with posturing to make everyone think we have more success with our art than we do but it’s all a masquerade and we all get the emails from Bandcamp saying you made six dollars last month and the emails from Spotify saying you had a hundred plays last month and you can substitute in your own number scale for mine here but the point is that it makes me feel sad and I’m pretty sure this happens to everyone (except apex artists like Celine Dion or Elton John) and I see all my friends who used to tour in the before times and all the musicians I know who have been decimated by the pandemic and I wonder why we set things up like this and sometimes I swing by the live music channels on Twitch and see these beautiful people singing their hearts out for a few viewers which counts for something but that singer is going back to her graveyard shift knowledge worker job after her stream tonight and she’s going to wonder what she’s doing wrong and I feel bad I didn’t subscribe to her channel.


I forgave myself for all this stuff a while ago but obviously it is still rattling around in my head and sometimes I wish I’d just stop thinking or caring or feeling but then I remember that is probably exactly what death is for and I’ll have plenty of quality time there in just a few more turns of the spiral so now I ought to enjoy feeling all this pain and do the work as best I can and it all circles back to making things with my hands and I’m really sad I didn’t take that toy from grandpa that he made with his hands but I do have a toolbox he made that is carved with a big Blackletter “T” for Tyler and I was his only grandson and I’m my father’s only son (and his brothers never had any kids either) and I’m never going to have any kids so I guess I’m the end of that whole thing.